from the Superior Court No. 3 AN-15-05396 CI of the State of
Alaska, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Erin B. Marston,
Khadj inova, Pro Bono Program-Alaska Legal Services Corp.,
Anchorage, for Appellant.
N. Chaobal, Law Office of Vikram N. Chaobal, Anchorage, for
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and
Horning is eligible for healthcare from the Indian Health
Service (IHS) because she is an Alaska Native. Donovan
Horning has unvested post-retirement healthcare benefits
through the military's TRICARE program. When the superior
court divided the marital estate after the couple's
divorce trial, it did not classify, value, or distribute
either party's healthcare, finding instead that each had
"an equal benefit that [was] in essence a wash for the
purpose of dividing the marital estate."
now appeals. She argues that her eligibility for IHS
healthcare is separate property, that Donovan's TRICARE
benefit is marital property, and that it was therefore error
for the superior court to use her separate property to offset
Donovan's marital property. We agree. We therefore vacate
the superior court's property distribution order and
remand for further proceedings.
FACTS AND PROCEEDINGS
and Shanda Horning were married in October 2000 and separated
in March 2013. Donovan enlisted in the United States Air
Force in January 2001, soon after the couple married.
Donovan's monthly gross income is around $7, 400;
Shanda's monthly gross income is around $2, 600.
active member of the military, Donovan has health insurance
through TRICARE. If Donovan retires from the military with
more than 20 years of service, he will continue to have
health insurance through the TRICARE program for the rest of
his life. Shanda is an Alaska Native and is
therefore eligible to receive healthcare provided by IHS.
filed for divorce in March 2015. Before the divorce trial
began, Shanda requested costs to pay for an expert valuation
of Donovan's military pension and his post-retirement
TRICARE benefit. Shanda argued that both of those assets were
marital property and that they needed to be valued in order
to divide the marital estate. The superior court denied
Shanda's request, concluding that an expert was not
necessary and there was "enough information to go
forward" with the distribution analysis.
superior court's final property distribution order
divided the marital estate "[w]ith the goal of an
equitable distribution of 50/50." The order required
Shanda and Donovan to equally split the marital portion of
Donovan's military pension. But the superior court did
not divide the marital portion of Donovan's
post-retirement TRICARE benefit.
the superior court found that Donovan's post-retirement
TRICARE benefit and Shanda's eligibility for IHS
healthcare provided "an equal benefit that is in essence
a wash for the purpose of dividing the marital estate."
The superior court therefore concluded that it was "not
necessary to value either coverage with more specificity and
would needlessly dissipate limited marital assets without the
probability of achieving meaningful values."
now appeals. She argues that the superior court implicitly
treated her separate property - her eligibility for
IHS-provided healthcare - as marital property by using it to
offset Donovan's TRICARE benefit, and that this error
requires us to vacate the superior court's property
division order. She also argues that the superior court
abused its discretion when it ...